Next week our foster parent license will expire and we will not renew it. We've been foster parents for seven years, although we weren't accepting new placements for all that time. In all, we had four foster children, who stayed with us from six days to forever.
We didn't foster very many children for very long. We never fostered a child with severe issues. There are families who foster dozens of children, many with mind-numbingly difficult challenges. Compared to them, what we contributed is less than peanuts.
Really we gained much more from being foster parents than we gave. For one thing, the intensive training we completed to earn our initial license, and the ongoing training we've done every year since, taught us a higher level of parenting overall. The skills we began to learn for dealing with damaged and traumatized children have helped us be more conscientious, aware parents. It's hard for me to describe the huge paradigm shift Mark and I experienced in our understanding of what it means to parent a child.
Also, our children have changed in some essential ways from being foster siblings. We always told the kids that the best thing our family has to offer a foster child is healthy, supportive siblings. The kids really internalized their role in loving and helping our foster children. On occasion they may have groused a little about the chaos and stress of a hypothetical foster child, but when the real child arrived their hearts opened wide. They've grown up feeling that if any child in the world is in trouble, they should just come to our house.
Other awesome things about being a foster parent: We saw the much-maligned "system" and the good people who work within it do amazing things for families with children in foster care. Our parents and extended families opened up to all our foster children with as much love and support as any of our other children. We got go to Boondocks for free one day every year. God definitely guided us to become foster parents (story here), and we felt buoyed and supported each time we had a placement. On a selfish note, I enjoyed feeling that no matter what bad things the world might contain, we were contributing a little something for the good side.
Though I'm grateful for our family's new direction, I'm sad to see all that go. It was great. It was kinda cosmic. Maybe you should try it. We're very glad we did.